We’ll Let You In On A Little Secret: Our Methodology
Testing Android antivirus apps is easy, right? You just download them, try them out, and see what works, correct? Well, our review process was a bit more complicated than that, so if you want to test antivirus apps yourself, we’ll let you in on our methodology.
Tests… Lots of ‘Em
We couldn’t call this a review without extensively testing each antivirus app, from the installation all the way to the user experience. We tested each app for at least six months and used both their free and paid-for versions when available. Of course, we followed the testing process that we outlined in our antivirus guide, which included the following.
Installation and Setup
All of the apps we tested came from the Google Play Store, which meant they all followed the same installation process. However, some antivirus apps required extra steps for the setup, like signing up for an account, granting system access, or choosing a subscription plan. These extra steps weren’t exactly a nuisance as they were necessary for some features to work, but we gave higher marks to the apps that required little to no user action during setup. We specifically liked the apps that jumped right into action and scanned for viruses the first time we opened them.
Piece of Advice: Never download .apk files a.k.a. Android installers from unverified websites, especially antivirus apps.
The next thing we tested was the apps’ ability to scan for viruses and malware, more specifically, how and where they looked for such threats. Most, if not all Android antivirus apps feature a ‘Scan’ button or something similar on their home screen, and tapping on that would initiate a (you guessed it!) scan of the device. That’s what we call an on-demand scan. There were also antiviruses that kept our smartphones protected by continuously running in the background and stopping threats as they happen. By definition, that’s called on-access scans, but most apps call it real-time scanning. We like having both on-demand and real-time scans in our arsenal of features, but unfortunately, that wasn’t always possible. Many free antivirus apps (and some paid apps) didn’t offer real-time scanning, so we made sure to highlight the ones that did.
We also paid attention to where each app searched for viruses and malware. There were antiviruses that scanned all files, folders, and apps by default, which is ideal for those who want to make sure their phones are completely virus-free. However, since full scans take time (about 30 minutes based on our experience), some apps are set to only do a quick scan by default with a separate option to do a full scan. Depending on what you’re looking for, both options are acceptable.
Virus Detection Test
If you’ve read one of our antivirus reviews, you might be familiar with our virus detection test (if you haven’t yet, take our Bitdefender antivirus review as a sampler). We took five different viruses, downloaded them, and scored each antivirus based on how many of the five they detected. We originally devised this test for desktop antivirus software, but when we recreated it with Android antivirus apps, we got mostly the same results. The highest score was five out of five, but the average score of the roughly 40 apps we tested was three out of five, or 60 percent virus detection.
AV-TEST Lab Results
We have strong confidence in our ability to test antivirus apps, but we also wanted to see how other antivirus experts rate each app. Specifically, we looked to AV-TEST’s independent lab results for the more technical tidbits. They have been testing Android antivirus apps for their ability to detect the most recent Android malware, such as those added to their database in the past four months prior to each test. Almost all of our five top picks got a near-perfect score, with the exception of Trend Micro, which actually got a perfect 100 percent score in AV-TEST’s November 2020 series of tests.
The Price Is Right! Or Is It?
The cost is a huge factor when it comes to choosing an antivirus app, so we assessed the price value of each antivirus software. Note that it’s not a contest of which is cheapest, but rather, which can provide more value and protection at an affordable price. We’d rather pay for an effective antivirus than go with a free antivirus that lacks necessary features. That’s not to say that all free antiviruses are not good enough, though. There were a number of free Android antivirus apps that passed our standards, and we made sure to include some of them in our top picks. If you want to learn more about free antivirus software, check out our review of the best free antiviruses.
Another factor was the number of devices they protected. Since antivirus is a must for Androids— and really all types of consumer electronic devices— we included options that could protect multiple devices within a single subscription. We found that in most cases, a standard antivirus subscription could protect between one and five devices, although there were some that provided protection to more than 10 devices.